Published: Thursday, 24th March 2016
The government has announced it will consult on the recommendations in the report of the Local Plans Expert Group until 27 April.
The report was published at the same time as the Budget last week. The Group reported an almost unanimous consensus about the problems facing local plan preparation.
These centre on agreeing housing need; difficulties with the duty to cooperate (including the distribution of unmet housing needs); a lack of political will and commitment; a lack of clarity on key issues, particularly SHMAs, strategic planning, green belt and environmental constraints; too many changes of policy, advice and factual changes in forecasts; and a lack of guidance, support and resources.
Developers and professional planners have given a broad welcome to the group’s proposals for shorter and faster plans which are more effective on growth and ensure proper community engagement.
President of the Royal Town Planning Institute Phil Williams said: “We want to see shorter, more proportionate and responsive, local plans and a greater focus on planning collaboratively across boundaries.
“Overall, the conclusions of the report will provide planners with greater certainty, for example, by allowing for judgments to be made on simpler evidence bases, and being subject to more flexible tests of soundness by the Inspectorate.
“We are also very pleased that the group has acknowledged the role that central government can play by taking steps to incentivise the development of growth points to ensure that housing needs are met”.
Ministers have made it clear that they want to see the planning system move towards a more zonal and ‘red lining’ approach where local authorities use their local plans to signal their development strategy from the outset and make maximum use of permissions in principle to give early certainty and reduce the number of stage developers must go through to get planning permission.